Talented young musician 16-year-old Poppy McGhee who has raised thousands of pounds by playing her violin to help blind and autistic children is being recognised with a Rotary Young Citizen Award 2021.
Poppy, who has epilepsy, started playing the violin aged five after seeing the famous violinist Nicola Benedetti playing on YouTube, and passed Grade 8 – the top musical examination – with distinction two weeks after her 8th birthday.
She said: “I read somewhere that Nicola Benedetti passed her Grade 8 when she was eight years old. So, I decided that I wanted to do the same thing.”
Poppy also started fundraising at the age of five by making and selling charity Christmas cards for a local hospice. Then, after seeing a performance when she was seven by blind and autistic pianist Derek Paravicini, who inspired the setting up of The Amber Trust, she decided to use her musical talents to raise thousands of pounds for this charity. She took part in her first fundraising concert when she was just eight.
The Amber Trust was founded in 1995 with the aim of providing blind and partially sighted children, including those with additional disabilities, the best possible chance to meet their musical needs and aspirations.
Professor Adam Ockelford, who founded The Amber Trust, said: “I first met Poppy eight years ago when she was only eight years old; she was a tiny little thing. And she came up to me at the end of a concert and said ‘I want to raise money for The Amber Trust’ and I thought ‘Wow! fantastic!’. And indeed she did! She started with a concert that year and every year since, raising money for us. She’s now raised several thousand pounds. She really is our golden fundraiser.“
Poppy is a brilliant performer and she has the ability to communicate through sound and through music with young children with profound disabilities.”
Poppy has taken part in workshops run by The Amber Trust helping to provide music for blind, partially sighted and autistic children, and she also mentors younger musicians.
Professor Ockelford added: “Poppy is a brilliant performer and she has the ability to communicate through sound and through music with young children with profound disabilities. They really pick up on her brilliant communication skills and she enthrals them with her violin playing, and they smile and laugh. It’s the most wonderful thing.”
Mendip Rotary Club was so inspired by Poppy, who has also been involved in many of their charitable and musical events, that they nominated her for a Rotary Young Citizen Award 2021.
I really love the way that music can light up people’s lives and I really enjoy performing to see how much people benefit from it.”
Poppy is a scholarship pupil at Marlborough College in Wiltshire and plays the recorder and piano as well as the violin and has also learnt to play the cello and oboe.
She said: “I really love the way that music can light up people’s lives and I really enjoy performing to see how much people benefit from it. Also, I really love helping younger children and being a part of their musical journey.”
Poppy was presented with her Award at a Virtual Rotary Young Citizen Awards Ceremony hosted by BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell. She received a trophy and certificate from Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland and £300 which she is donating to “With Music in Mind”, which is a new service run by The Amber Trust for visually impaired children with neurodegenerative disease.
The President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Tom Griffin said: “Well done, Poppy, for overcoming her own disability to raise funds to bring music to sight-impaired and autistic children. Music is a universal language, and Poppy’s initiative over a number of years must have brought comfort and pleasure to many young people.”
Roger Burdock from Mendip Rotary Club said: “We met Poppy when she won our local round of Rotary Young Musician in 2018. Four months later she was awarded second place in the National Final. It is a privilege to support her. Incidentally, she has just raised another £1,000 for The Amber Trust through the ‘Captain Tom 100 Challenge’. Poppy, you are inspirational!”